Athens. The Senate House.
(First Senator; First Senator; Third Senator; Alcibiades; Attendants)
Alcibiades pleads before the Senate for the life of one of his soldiers who has been condemned to death, arguing that his crime was committed in the heat of the moment and that sending him back to war would allow him to redeem himself. The Senators refuse all his pleading, and when he continues and goes too far, they exile him. Furious, he plans to take his soldiers and wage war against Athens on his own account. (123 lines)
Enter three Senators at one door, Alcibiades meeting them, with Attendants.
My lord, you have my voice to’t; the fault’s
Bloody; ’tis necessary he should die.
Nothing emboldens sin so much as mercy.
Most true; the law shall bruise ’em.
Honor, health, and compassion to the Senate!
I am an humble suitor to your virtues;
For pity is the virtue of the law,
And none but tyrants use it cruelly.
It pleases time and fortune to lie heavy
Upon a friend of mine, who in hot blood
Hath stepp’d into the law, which is past depth
To those that (without heed) do plunge into’t.
He is a man (setting his fate aside)
Of comely virtues;
Nor did he soil the fact with cowardice
(An honor in him which buys out his fault),
But with a noble fury and fair spirit,
Seeing his reputation touch’d to death,
He did oppose his foe;
And with such sober and unnoted passion
He did behoove his anger, ere ’twas spent,
As if he had but prov’d an argument.
You undergo too strict a paradox,
Striving to make an ugly deed look fair.
Your words have took such pains as if they labor’d
To bring manslaughter into form, and set quarrelling
Upon the head of valor; which indeed
Is valor misbegot, and came into the world
When sects and factions were newly born.
He’s truly valiant that can wisely suffer
The worst that man can breathe, and make his wrongs
His outsides, to wear them like his raiment, carelessly,
And ne’er prefer his injuries to his heart,
To bring it into danger.
If wrongs be evils and enforce us kill,
What folly ’tis to hazard life for ill!
You cannot make gross sins look clear;
To revenge is no valor, but to bear.
My lords, then, under favor, pardon me
If I speak like a captain.
Why do fond men expose themselves to battle,
And not endure all threats? Sleep upon’t,
And let the foes quietly cut their throats
Without repugnancy? If there be
Such valor in the bearing, what make we
Abroad? Why then, women are more valiant
That stay at home, if bearing carry it;
And the ass more captain than the lion, the fellow
Loaden with irons wiser than the judge,
If wisdom be in suffering. O my lords,
As you are great, be pitifully good.
Who cannot condemn rashness in cold blood?
To kill, I grant, is sin’s extremest gust,
But in defense, by mercy, ’tis most just.
To be in anger is impiety;
But who is man that is not angry?
Weigh but the crime with this.
You breathe in vain.
In vain? His service done
At Lacedaemon and Byzantium
Were a sufficient briber for his life.
Why, I say, my lords, h’as done fair service,
And slain in fight many of your enemies.
How full of valor did he bear himself
In the last conflict, and made plenteous wounds!
He has made too much plenty with ’em.
He’s a sworn rioter; he has a sin that often
Drowns him and takes his valor prisoner.
If there were no foes, that were enough
To overcome him. In that beastly fury
He has been known to commit outrages
And cherish factions. ’Tis inferr’d to us,
His days are foul and his drink dangerous.
Hard fate! He might have died in war.
My lords, if not for any parts in him—
Though his right arm might purchase his own time
And be in debt to none—yet more to move you,
Take my deserts to his, and join ’em both;
And for I know your reverend ages love
Security, I’ll pawn my victories, all
My honor to you, upon his good returns.
If by this crime he owes the law his life,
Why, let the war receive’t in valiant gore,
For law is strict, and war is nothing more.
We are for law, he dies, urge it no more
On height of our displeasure. Friend, or brother,
He forfeits his own blood that spills another.
Must it be so? It must not be. My lords,
I do beseech you know me.
Call me to your remembrances.
I cannot think but your age has forgot me,
It could not else be I should prove so base
To sue and be denied such common grace.
My wounds ache at you.
Do you dare our anger?
’Tis in few words, but spacious in effect:
We banish thee forever.
Banish your dotage, banish usury,
That makes the Senate ugly!
If after two days’ shine Athens contain thee,
Attend our weightier judgment. And not to swell our spirit,
He shall be executed presently.
Now the gods keep you old enough that you may live
Only in bone, that none may look on you!
I’m worse than mad. I have kept back their foes,
While they have told their money, and let out
Their coin upon large interest—I myself
Rich only in large hurts. All those, for this?
Is this the balsom that the usuring Senate
Pours into captains’ wounds? Banishment!
It comes not ill; I hate not to be banish’d,
It is a cause worthy my spleen and fury,
That I may strike at Athens. I’ll cheer up
My discontented troops, and lay for hearts.
’Tis honor with most lands to be at odds;
Soldiers should brook as little wrongs as gods.